Author: Su Youbing
Hao Guozi was dumbfounded.
Miss Tong was really infatuated. She even forcibly wasted five years of her life. No wonder the rumors circulating throughout the city said that she was pungent, fierce and tough. It was most likely to keep up her agreement with Cai Fengyuan, only this Cai Fengyuan was too disappointing.
Cai Fengyuan said, “This time, in the provincial-level imperial examination, I’ve fully grasped that I’ll pass. When the time comes, I’ll go to the capital to win the top marks in the imperial examinations and bring honor to my ancestors, then I could have a good talk with the Tongs to propose a marriage alliance.”
Tao Mo asked in doubt, “Is this Master Tong and Madam Tong’s requirement?”
Cai Fengyuan replied: “Although they did not say it personally, the Tongs’ residence is a great household. If I possess nothing, how can they have a good opinion of me? Naturally, it’s not until I’m in the limelight that I could talk about it.”
Hao Guozi said, “This’ll be really wonderful. Now that Miss Tong’s dead, for how many years would you like to take the examination and for how long would you like to take it? At the worst, you can put forth a ghost marriage to the Tongs after passing brilliantly. I guess that can also fulfill Miss Tong’s lifelong wish.”
Cai Fengyuan felt so oppressed by him that he was speechless. In an instant, he cried bitterly as he said, “How would I know, how would I know that she’d be like this? It’s definitely her stubborn parents who coerced her to do it; otherwise, why would she take things badly? Two months ago, she was still fine.”
Tao Mo asked, “Did the two of you meet two months ago?”
Cai Fengyuan replied, “On the fifteenth of that month, we met at the Guanyin Temple. I told her that I want to concentrate on the imperial civil examination and that I wouldn’t be able to see her for a while. She agreed and there was the least bit that felt amiss.”
Tao Mo asked, “No complaints?”
Cai Fengyuan dodged his gaze. “This…for so many years, she had hoped that she’d be able to get married as soon as possible.”
Hao Guozi coldly snorted. Nevertheless, he sneered at Cai Fengyuan and owed him no sympathy!
Tao Mo thought for a while, but could not ask anything else, so he only said, “If you’re sincere to Miss Tong, why not pay your respects at the Tongs’ residence? That Master Tong and Madam Tong may not be as what you’ve imagined. It’s a sad thing to see one’s child die before oneself. And besides, Miss Tong’s already passed away. Even if you have any grievances, it’s a must for you to see Miss Tong and put behind past grievances.”
Cai Fengyuan was silent.
Hao Guozi could not help it anymore. “Everyone knows that a fruit should be picked out with a soft pinch. It’s strange to only blame Young Master who was an outsider and had nothing to do with that Miss Tong. He had to be used as a scapegoat and was mocked and ridiculed. That Master Tong and Madam Tong are her parents. How could he have the face to see her family?”
Cai Fengyuan looked disheartened and defeated. It seemed like he was hit on the head with a nail.
Tao Mo secretly sighed and pulled Hao Guozi to go out.
Hao Guozi said, “Young Master, that man is clearly bullying the weak and fearing the strong. You mustn’t put attention to him again.”
Tao Mo replied, “To suffer the loss of a loved one is a great sorrow in one’s life.”
Hao Guozi saw that Tao Mo looked pensive. He feared that Tao Mo would remember the past events so he hurriedly said, “Ah! I’m hungry. How about if we eat something first.”
Tao Mo nodded in a daze.
The two went out of the inn and Hao Guozi suddenly stopped walking.
Tao Mo asked, “Why aren’t you walking?”
“There’s someone who’s been looking at us. Ah! He’s coming over.” Hao Guozi nudged Tao Mo with his elbow.
Tao Mo turned around and saw that it was Gu Xioajia.
Gu Xioajia came over very relutantly, “My Young Master has requested the pleasure of seeing you.”
Tao Mo’s eyes glimmered. When he was about to lift his foot, he was stopped by Hao Guozi. “Did your Young Master say he requested him to come? My Young Master’s the magistrate of Tan Yang.”
Gu Xiaojia rolled his eyes. “Tsk, tsk. Weren’t you eagerly sending in an invitation in front of the entrance of my Young Master’s mansion last time? In a wink, did my Young Master become the chief county magistrate?”
Hao Guozi looked at him suspiciously. “Who are you?”
Gu Xiaojia said, “The surname is Gu.”
Hao Guozi was shocked. “Gu She?”
Gu Xiaojia’s complexion darkened. “My Young Master is Gu She.” Before he had even finished speaking, he saw Hao Guozi desperately pulling Tao Mo to run in the opposite direction.
“You, you, you…” Gu Xiaojia chased after them and stopped them. “What are you two running for?”
Hao Guozi answered, “We’re going home for dinner.”
Gu Xiaojia said, “I said, my Young Master’s requested the pleasure of seeing you.”
Hao Guozi refused to yield an inch and said, “Our household’s Old Tao invited us first.”
Gu Xiaojia frowned and asked, “Who is Old Tao?”
Hao Guozi replied, “The person who invited us for a meal.”
Gu Xiaojia: “…”
Hao Guozi suddenly loosened his hand and at the same time, Gu Xiaojia turned around to see.
Gu She was standing in front of a carriage. Tao Mo ran toward him eagerly .
(– literally “with jolting buttocks.”)
Pleased with himself, Gu Xiaojia said, “It seems Old Tao’s charm is just so-so.”
Hao Guozi: “…”
Tao Mo ran up to Gu She. His heart went pit-a-pat, beating wildly. “You…why did you come here?”
Gu She replied, “Just passing by.”
Tao Mo looked from left to right and asked in a flash, “Are you going to the Tongs’ residence?”
Gu She turned sideways and said, “Hop in.”
“Oh.” Tao Mo obediently climbed up the carriage.
When Gu She got in the carriage, he found that the carriage was a bit cramped. Tao Mo was blocking the carriage’s entrance and it was inevitable that the two would rub against one another if he tried to get in.
Gu She retreated down again.
At a loss, Tao Mo asked, “Why aren’t you getting on the carriage?”
Gu She replied, “Go to your little male servant and give him a word.”
Tao Mo slapped his forehead and sneered, “I almost forgot about it.”
Gu She waited for him to get out of the carriage and proceeded to get in.
Gu Xiaojia and Hao Guozi were dragging in irrelevant matters as they came over.
Gu Xiaojia argued noisy, “Tell Old Tao that your Young Master’s being invited by my Young Master.”
Hao Guozi gloomily said, “Old Tao will be furious.”
“Haha. Who told your Old Tao to be not as smart, confident and at ease as my Young Master?” Gu Xiaojia still thought that Old Tao was annoying Tao Mo to break the appointment.
Hao Guozi saw Tao Mo come down from the carriage and quickly rushed to him. “Young Master, let’s go back to the yamen first.”
Tao Mo looked at Gu Xiaojia who was gloating and whispered, ”I’m going with Gu She. You go back first.”
“Where are you going?” On his guard, Hao Guozi asked.
Being asked like this, Tao Mo was dumbfounded and after quite a while, he answered, ”Probably…we’re probably going to the Tongs’ residence. I happen to have to inquire from Master Tong and Madam Tong about Miss Tong’s case.”
Hao Guozi whispered, “Handling a case is the yamen’s job. I wonder what kind of bustle that Gu She’s after.”
Gu Xiaojia’s ears perked up upon hearing this. He refused to accept the criticism. “Ha. My Young Master’s the smartest person on earth. He’s willing to condescend to help your Young Master, the county magistrate. This is already an excellent favor. You’re still unable to recognize his good intention.”
Hao Guozi sneered and said, “The smartest person on earth? Can’t you be a little bit humble when speaking? You might as well as say that your Young Master’s the best on heaven and earth—a man who’s highly intelligent, mighty, powerful, and extravagant, adept in both pen and sword and dripping with sweat.”
“…How can my Young Master be extravagant and dripping with sweat?” Gu Xiaojia glared at him.
Hao Guozi was speechless. He was only blurting these words out without thinking.
Tao Mo saw that they rattled on and on, so he quickly said, “I need to hurry up and go. I can’t delay this. You should go back first.”
Hao Guozi also did not want to make his young master lose face in front of Gu Xioajia; thus, he unwillingly replied, “Yes. Young Master.”
Tao Mo jumped back into the carriage and Gu Xiaojia quickly drove straight to the Tongs’ residence.
The Tongs’ residence looked the same as ever.
Gu Xiaojia knocked on the door. When the gatekeeper saw Tao Mo jump down from the carriage, his face immediately changed.
Tao Mo unconsciously waited for Gu She to get out of the carriage, then he followed him from behind to go to the entrance.
The gatekeeper vigilantly glanced at Tao Mo and said respectfully to Gu She, “Young Master Gu.”
“Is your master home?” Gu She asked.
The gatekeeper answered, “Yes.” His eyes still lingered on Tao Mo.
Tao Mo said, “We’ve met before.”
The gatekeeper replied, “To this day, Your Excellency’s heroic actions are unforgettable for this little man.” It was really unforgettable that a person was already buried and yet, this master still wanted to open her coffin to perform autopsy.
Tao Mo shyly replied, “I’m actually quite ordinary.”
Gu Xiaojia bursted into laughter.
Gu She, who was about to lift his foot to step into the doorway, suddenly turned back and said to Tao Mo, “Among the average people, you’re not quite an ordinary one.”
Was Gu She…praising him?
Tao Mo’s soles became light. He almost floated into the residence.
When Master Tong heard his servant’s report that Gu She and Tao Mo had come together, he could not help but be shocked. He hastily came out and welcomed them.
“Young Master Gu, Your Excellency Tao.” From the different appellation given for the first and the latter, it was thus clear what was the priority of the two in his heart.
Tao Mo cupped his hands and greeted him, “Master Tong.”
Master Tong smiled in a perfunctory manner, then he faced Gu She and said, “Please take the seat of honor inside.”
Gu She was unwilling to pass on his responsibilities to others.
The three of them were seated, and indeed, Gu She sat on Tao Mo’s seat of honor.
Tao Mo took no notice of this; instead, he seemed to be happy with it.
Master Tong waited for the servant to offer tea before he probed with a question, “I wonder why Young Master Gu came?”
Gu She answered, “His Excellency Tao came to my residence yesterday. He wishes to open Miss Tong’s coffin for autopsy.”
Master Tong’s complexion darkened. The gatekeeper had told him about this matter. He originally thought that this matter would be dropped when the coffin was buried. He did not expect to find that Tao Mo would go as far as looking for Gu She and coming together with him to pay a visit. Could it be that they would really not give up until they were able to do the autopsy?
He inevitably became hesitant. It was easy to send Tao Mo away, but this Gu She…nevertheless could not be offended.
Tao Mo quickly said, “There’s no need make further inspections now.”
Master Tong indifferently asked, “Your Excellency, what caused you to show leniency?” This sentence was actually extraordinarily unrelenting.
Tao Mo responded, “I was reckless. I hadn’t accepted Cai Fengyuan’s confession; thus, I was rash in coming here. Please forgive me, Master Tong.”
When Master Tong saw that he acknowledged his mistake, his complexion eased. He slowly said, “No problem, no problem. I just wonder, who’s this Cai Fengyuan?”
Tao Mo answered, “He’s Miss Tong’s beloved.”
Master Tong’s complexion darkened once more.